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Entrepreneur David Frahm champions startup ventures

Entrepreneur David Frahm champions startup ventures

January 21st, 2019 by Philip Joens in News

David Frahm poses during an interview at Brew House Coffee on McCarty Street.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

As a serial entrepreneur, David Frahm wears many hats.

Frahm once worked steady jobs with the state of Missouri, Huber & Associates and Carfax, but said life in corporate America did not fit him.

"I worked at a lot of places," Frahm said. "But just doing development without crafting the product did not benefit me."

At age 46, Frahm creates things. A Jefferson City native, he tries to latch onto startup companies and push them to success. As the entrepreneurial community in Jefferson City becomes more visible, it will become easier for entrepreneurs to work in Jefferson City, he said.

Last April, Frahm began working as a contractor for Jefferson City startup Testery, which tests businesses' websites to make sure they work. At the end of November, Testery founder Chris Harbert hired Frahm as the company's first full-time employee.

Officially, Frahm serves as Testery's head of product. Unofficially, Frahm builds and markets Testery's testing services.

"At startups, especially early, titles really don't mean a whole lot," Frahm said. "You just do so many things.

As a kid, computers surrounded Frahm at the dawn of the tech age. Frahm's father worked in information technology for the state of Missouri for 30 years. Once he swore never to go into a computing field, but feels lucky his dad's love wore off on him.

After graduating from Columbia College with a degree in computer science in 1998, Frahm struggled to decide what path to follow.

Briefly, Frahm worked as a software engineer for Jefferson City IT firm Huber & Associates and the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator. In 2001, he and his wife, Vanessa, moved to St. Louis where he worked as a software engineer at MasterCard International.

In 2005, the couple moved back to Jefferson City where he found himself working again as a software engineer for Huber & Associates.

During his first three years of that stint, Frahm worked on projects assigned to him. For the last four years, Frahm met with clients and built websites from beginning to end. The experience taught him how to execute contracts, learn about costs involved with starting business and learn timelines for building websites.

"That was very entrepreneurial," Frahm said. "I wasn't the owner or founder, but that started to teach me what I really wanted to do."

At the time, Frahm knew he eventually wanted to scratch his entrepreneurial itch. First he wanted to improve his tech skills. So he took at job at Carfax in Columbia, which provides vehicle history reports over the web to people and businesses that want to buy used cars.

At Carfax, Frahm helped the company develop an app for car owners to compare service prices in their area and maintain their cars. The experience exposed Frahm to a new tier of tech talent and people who worked for Apple, Google, Amazon and other tech giants.

For the first time, Frahm created a product at his day job, and he was hooked. So Frahm left the certainty of a stable high-paying job for the low-paying uncertain world of startup life in 2015.

The previous October, Frahm began working for Equipment Share, a Columbia-based business which allows contractors to rent equipment and machinery to other contractors, which won Startup Weekend Columbia in 2014. In June 2015, he dove in head first as their first employee.

As Equipment Share got its feet under it, Frahm jumped ship again to work remotely for Washington D.C.-based startup Nexercise, which runs the Sworkit mobile workout app.

During the early part of his career, Frahm learned more about what he hated than what he liked. Now, Frahm sees himself as a dreamer with a keyboard. Over the past four years, Frahm learned he helps companies most during their earliest stages while they seek customers and a market to sell products.

After companies grow, hire several employees and the training wheels come off, Frahm begins to look for his next gig. Usually, this happens in about two to three years, he said.

"It's taken me a while to realize that," Frahm said. "There comes a point where my particular skills don't benefit the company as much at that point."

Already, Testery is showing signs of growth. Harbert, its founder, launched the company in May 2017. Almost two years later, the company is about to hire its second employee, Frahm said.

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During his free-time, Frahm works with several Mid-Missouri entrepreneurial support groups. He works part-time at the Missouri Innovation Center in Columbia mentoring other startups. Frahm also helped found the 1 Million Cups entrepreneurial support group in Jefferson City.

The group began hosting monthly meetings in November 2017 and will soon begin hosting weekly meetings at the new Campus Coworking space at 619 E. Capitol Ave.

Sometimes Frahm dreams of heading to bigger tech hubs like Silicon Valley, but said he can do his work for most companies remotely. Tech hubs like the Bay Area have problems like high housing costs and high costs of living, Frahm said.

"You have to be remote to compete for top talent anyway," Frahm said. "So why would you want to be somewhere really expensive?"